Wednesday, September 25, 2013
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, X-MEN!
of the X-Men. This landmark year for Marvel’s merry mutants makes
me feel positively ancient. I started buying X-Men with its fourth
issue and remember getting the three earlier issues via mail order
for around a buck apiece.
Looking at the great Jack Kirby/Chic Stone cover of the X-Men and
Ka-Zar - it was a “rejected” cover for X-Men #10 - and the heroic
young heroes of that era, I think the X-Men have aged poorly. The
current Marvel continuity confounds me on a regular basis, but I’m
thinking that, as of the most recent issues I’ve read, Jean Gray is
dead, Hank McCoy is dying, Cyclops has turned terrorist, the Angel
doesn’t know who he was and Iceman is making kissy-face with Kitty
Pryde. I make no claim to the accuracy of what I just wrote as I’m
going from my frequently befuddled memory. I am the CNN of comics
Editor Roy Thomas has done a terrific job recalling the Silver Age
of the X-Men. Will Murray does his usual wonderful job summarizing
the first sixty or so issues of the title with all sorts of crazy
behind-the-scenes details. The X-Men were never my favorite Marvel
title - though the series was in the running during the magnificent
Roy Thomas/Neal Adams run - but I always enjoyed how unpredictable
the series could be.
Roberto Guedes adds a fascinating article on the over 100 pages of
original X-Men stories created in Brazil during the 1960s. I was
amazed to learn that one of those stories guested starred a super-
hero named Raoi Negro, which translates to Black Lightning. That
makes three Black Lightnings that predate the super-hero I created
in 1976. There was a horse by that name that starred in a silent
movie and the horse rode by Johnny Thunder in the DC western comics
of the late 1940s through the early 1960s.
There’s lots of other great reading in Alter Ego #120 from Richard
Kelsey writing about the Merry Marvel Marching Society to pieces on
Harvey Kurtzman, comics writer Ed Silverman and Mac Raboy assistant
“Red” Mohler. Check out this latest issue and you’ll see why Alter
Ego remains my favorite comics magazine.
I read a bunch of old and new comics over the weekend with the most
recent being about three months old. What can I say? I’m not the
most timely of comics reviewers.
I read eight Bruce Wayne: The Road Home one-shots from late 2010.
They all had pretty much the same basic plot. Having made his way
back from the past - Darkseid sent him there at the end of one of
those interminable DC crossover events - Wayne has kept his return
secret from his closest allies and is now testing them to see how
they fit in with his new Batman agenda. I find it hilarious that
the near-psychotic Batman is testing anyone. I guess time travel
doesn’t make a dick less of a dick.
The individual one-shots were readable and occasionally more than
that. They featured Red Robin, the Outsiders, Batgirl, Catwoman,
Commissioner Gordon, Oracle, Ra’s al Ghul and Batman (Dick Grayson)
and Robin (Damian Wayne). The best of these one-shots was the one
starring Commissioner Gordon, written by the criminally underrated
Adam Beechen. The worse was the one starring Ra’s al Ghul, one of
those villains I don’t need to see anymore because he and daughter
Talia have become quite tiresome.
The easily-entertained, sadly undemanding Batman readers of today
would be appalled by what I’d do with the Bat-books in the unlikely
event I was in charge of them. Many of their favorite overused bad
guys would be sent to their final “rewards” and I’d ignore almost
everything done with Batman and his cast for the past two decades
or so. Aunt Harriet would return as the secret ganglord of Gotham
City. I’m only half-kidding about that last one.
Dark Horse has published a whole lot of Conan comic books as well
as reprints of Conan/Robert E. Howard material published by Marvel
back in the day. Since a little Conan goes a long way with me, I
have been reading the Dark Horse issues just a few at a time. The
least of them is still entertaining, the best of them...well, when
I come across the best of them, I’ll mention it in this and future
Conan #18 [July 2005] is one of the best of them. The lead story
is “Helm” by Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza with spectacular art by
John Severin. This tale spans many years and stars Conan’s helmet
as it passes from owner to owner. Change-of-pace stories tread on
unfamiliar ground, but this one worked very well.
Backing up the lead was “Conan’s Favorite Joke,” a four-page tale
by Kurt Busiek with art by Bruce Timm. Conan has a very dark sense
of humor. I almost felt guilty about laughing.
Criminal: The Last of the Innocent by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
is a four-issue series from 2011. It’s filled with dark betrayals
and darker secrets. I can’t write much about it without revealing
story elements you’d be ever so much better discovering yourself.
But it’s available in trade paperback as Criminal, Vol. 6: Last of
the Innocent [$14.99] and I recommend it.
Mark Waid is one of the best and most prolific writers in comics.
That’s really starting to piss me off. I’m sure there’s some sort
of explanation for his ability and success, but the understanding
of that explanation is probably as much out of my mental mastery as
I’ll show him. I’ll barely mention Daredevil won an Eisner Award
for best continuing series. I’ll scarcely note that, having read
Daredevil #21-26, I find Waid’s explanation for all the weird crap
Matt Murdock’s been going through makes satisfying sense to me and
leaves me eager for the finale to that storyline. I’ll only state
in passing that the real-life drama of Foggy Nelson’s situation is
as riveting as the super-hero stuff. Take that, Waid!
However, I will mention how astonishingly terrific the art of Chris
Samnee is on these issues, combined with equally wonderful coloring
by Javier Rodriguez. Because, for me, being envious of an artist
and a colorist, skills I could never possess, would be akin to my
being jealous of LeBron James’ jump shot. Of course, if either of
them ever starts writing stories as good as Waid’s, then all bets
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2013 Tony Isabella